How To – Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets

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    Updating your kitchen doesn’t need to cost a lot and with a few simple steps and maybe a weekend’s worth of time you can bring a totally new feel to one of the rooms you and your family use the most. But before you get started there are some considerations and planning that will make painting your kitchen cabinets easier and provide a more professional result.

    The first thing you should do is inspect the cabinets you have.  Not only do you want to look at the condition of the cabinet faces but you should also inspect areas under your sink and stovetop for needed repairs. If you find that the base shelf or bottom of the cabinet has been soaked with soaps or food materials over the years you can try cleaning the surfaces… this is why you buy shelf paper.. but if it needs to be replaced don’t worry it is not that difficult to purchase a piece of replacement luan to go over the damage or plywood to replace the cabinet bottom.

    You should also take a look at all of your cabinet shelves. If your shelves have supported heavy loads for a number of years you may need to replace one or two of them due to warping. Take a straight edge or level to the shelve or remove it and rest it on your countertop to judge it for replacement. Also examine the shelve supports. If they are damaged you may be able to adjust the shelve up or down one position (about an inch) and provide a stable support. If not then keep this in your list of things to replace.

    Next you want to look at all of your cabinet hardware. Inspect your drawer sliders for proper operation. You may want to replace them with the automatic soft close sliders. This is not a difficult job since you can use the same positions from the old sliders to install the new ones. Cost will depend on the number of sliders and type you purchase.

    Hinges, knobs and pulls and any special item such as a hideaway bread door or lazysusan should be inspected for any repairs or replacements you want to make.

    Upgrading or replacing damaged items will depend on the condition of your kitchen and how far you are willing to go but take all of these considerations into account before you decide to paint because you want to restore function at the same time you restore or change the look.

    Cabinet Doors And Drawer Fronts

    For the best finish you should consider removing your drawer fronts and cabinet doors if possible. If any repairs need to be made you can use a standard wood filler or Autobody Filler to fill small dents and holes.

    If larger repairs need to be made you will need to purchase premilled lumber that can be matched to the thickness of your cabinets. A hand router can be rented to match your moldings.  Although it is possible to mill lumber with a small electric planer the cost of rental or purchase is more then it is worth for a single job. In this case you can bring your damaged piece to a local cabinet maker and have them make the repair for you.

    You also have the option of changing your doors and drawer fronts. If you would like to add features such as leaded glass then this would be the time to order at your local supply center.

    Preparing The Surfaces For Paint

    As you can see the hardest and most time consuming part of painting is preparation. The previous steps that we went over shouldn’t take more then about an hour depending on the number of repairs you need to make but now is the time for cleaning and prep work.

    Clean all the surfaces that you will be painting. Begin by washing all of the surfaces inside and out with a standard household cleaner with ammonia. This will strip most of the food and grime off the surfaces. Continue  with a commercial grade wax and grease remover TSP will work to some degree but a chemical based cleaner is better.  Apply with one rag and wipe away with a clean one. As the rags get dirty discard the application rag and get a fresh rag for wiping.

    Once all of the surfaces are clean you can begin sanding.

    Since you may not want to paint all areas you should tape off areas you do not want painted before you begin sanding this will protect them from scratches. Expect to replace some areas of the tape you hit with sandpaper before final painting.

    Using a 300 grit or finer sand paper or a fine grade sanding sponge you need to abrade the surface to accept the paint. Any shiny area is likely to allow the paint to peal.

    SPECIAL NOTE If you are painting vinyl clad surfaces you will need a special etching primer to allow the paint to adhere.  Even with using vinyl primers you can expect even light scratches to reveal the surface below. Upgrading to a Paint Grade door and drawer front may be your best bet.

    Applying Your Primer And Paint

    Although Oil Based paints may still be available latex paint has gone through so many improvements that it is your best choice. It is also much easier to apply and clean up.

    If you are working on wood with exposed knots then an alcohol based primer must be applied to the knot before finishing with a standard latex primer or paint.

    Latex primer is not always necessary however if you are painting over bright  colors with a light white or tint color you could have some bleed through. Meaning he color below will show through when you only apply one top coat.  Sandable primer surfacers are also available in a lacquer formula and will help hide even moderate scratches.

    Applying Your Top Coat

    Once you have finished sanding and priming any area that needs work then you should examine all of your masking tape lines before you begin painting.  Reapply tape to any pealed back or damaged areas before you begin.  To cover large areas you can use regular Plastic Kitchen Food Wrap in addition to tape or you can use plastic painters tarp that can be cut to fit in areas.

    When you are painting large areas the best results are to work in small sections. Apply paint to larger areas with a paint roller and then follow up with a slightly wet brush to introduce brush texture and get into tight areas a roller can not get to.

    You also have the option of using a paint sprayer. This will require much more work to protect all areas in and around the cabinets that you do not want paint on. Even a small sprayer will spit paint 4 feet or more on areas you don’t want painted.

    Clean while you work.

    If you see an area that you painted by mistake then take time and clean the latex paint off immediately then touch up any area with a paint brush.

    Wait at least 2 hours before you begin to peal back your tape and remove your tarps or plastic. Although many professional painters will remove the masking while the paint is wet to allow the masked edge to flow a latex paint job will tend to dry so quickly that flow-out is not possible as it is for enamels and lacquer paints.

    A Detail or Art brush can be used to touchup any areas you missed.

    Final Note

    Every paint job is slightly different but the main point of this howto is to expose you to all of the prior steps along with the actual process of painting that is required to make your kitchen look new or maybe even better then new.

    By examining finishes and color styles in magazines and at supplier websites you can expand your options for a better result.

    The YouRepair Store sells a full line of Kitchen Cabinet Parts and Painting Tools and accessories. Remember most orders over $25 can ship for free directly to your home.

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